ARTICLE ABSTRACTCheckpoint inhibitors have limited efficacy for children with unselected solid and brain tumors. We report the first prospective pediatric trial (NCT02992964) using nivolumab exclusively for refractory nonhematologic cancers harboring tumor mutation burden (TMB) ≥5 mutations/megabase (mut/Mb) and/or mismatch repair deficiency (MMRD).
Twenty patients were screened, and 10 were ultimately included in the response cohort of whom nine had TMB >10 mut/Mb (three initially eligible based on MMRD) and one patient had TMB between 5 and 10 mut/Mb.
Delayed immune responses contributed to best overall response of 50%, improving on initial objective responses (20%) and leading to 2-year overall survival (OS) of 50% [95% confidence interval (CI), 27–93]. Four children, including three with refractory malignant gliomas are in complete remission at a median follow-up of 37 months (range, 32.4–60), culminating in 2-year OS of 43% (95% CI, 18.2–100). Biomarker analyses confirmed benefit in children with germline MMRD, microsatellite instability, higher activated and lower regulatory circulating T cells. Stochastic mutation accumulation driven by underlying germline MMRD impacted the tumor microenvironment, contributing to delayed responses. No benefit was observed in the single patient with an MMR-proficient tumor and TMB 7.4 mut/Mb.
Nivolumab resulted in durable responses and prolonged survival for the first time in a pediatric trial of refractory hypermutated cancers including malignant gliomas. Novel biomarkers identified here need to be translated rapidly to clinical care to identify children who can benefit from checkpoint inhibitors, including upfront management of cancer.